How local news organizations are taking steps to recover from a year of trauma

We are working on a story detailing how KPA newspapers plan to ‘get back to normalcy’ or what the future holds. Comments from newspapers have been trickling in so we hope to have a better detail on that in the next couple of weeks.

By Jane Elizabeth, American Press Institute

More than a year after the global pandemic became official, local journalism still grapples with the fallout — not only from the coronavirus but also by an intense nationwide racial reckoning, regional disasters including fires and storms, and ever-present gun violence and mass shootings.

The flood of news events over the past year also exacerbated the endemic financial struggles of local media. At least 65 news organizations have closed permanently. Local news organizations in every state, D.C. and Puerto Rico have been affected by job losses or pay cuts and furloughs, according to the Poynter Institute’s tracking. Some employees left voluntarily, citing unrelenting stress.

But local journalism endures — at startups, nonprofits, and corporate-owned newsrooms. In early April, an American Press Institute report outlined seven important challenges for local and regional news organizations to consider as they try to rebound from these ongoing struggles. We asked for your ideas and solutions for addressing lost resources, audience retention, misinformation, rebuilding beats and improving investigative journalism, newsroom diversity, and journalists’ mental health And over the past several weeks, we’ve heard the stories of dozens of journalists who launched ideas and projects aimed at emerging from the crushing blows of the past year. From web redesigns to starting (or killing) Facebook groups to tough talk about diversity, local news organizations are tackling those seven issues with unique strategies driven by a unique moment in their history.

This report will share early successes, cautious hopes and thoughtful advice from local journalists who are working through the questions we posed earlier this year.

Their priorities might be different, but everyone we spoke to had the same goal: climbing out of the chaos of the past year and pushing ahead into whatever the future of local news might bring. The actions taken by each of these newsrooms are tailored to their mission, culture and their most pressing needs, but they have in common a few key prescripts.

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